Toby leaps out from his hiding spot, swinging his gun around like a bat. It meets the back of Isaac's head with a crack that splits the air between us in two. Isaac's eyes roll back in his head, and he crumples to the ground in a pile at Toby's feet.
It can't have been that easy.
The thought has barely crossed my mind when Jaelyn grabs me by the neck, throwing me to the ground. Her face is bright red; the sweat on her forehead drips down onto my face.
Lexi is the only girl I let beat me up. No one else is even allowed to try.
I glance at Toby, but he's ignoring my plight, picking up and cuffing the limp man. My lungs are already burning, and Jaelyn's hands have begun to shake in rage.
I use my knees to shove her off me, and we roll sideways in the dirt, now laying on our shoulders. Her grip never loosens.
"Let go of me," I whisper, grabbing a handful of her hair and jerking. She gives me another squeeze, pushing out whatever air my throat had on reserve. The jagged ends of her fingernails dig into the soft skin of my neck, threatening to draw blood.
I pull the handful of her hair down again, slamming her head into the ground. For a second, she reels, letting go of my neck. I roll her over onto her back. My free arm pins her down to the ground; one hand is still tangled in her now dusty hair. I position myself so that my knees are on her thighs, using every bit of weight I can to keep her there.
"You tricked me," she says, spit stretched in strings across her open lips.
"Don't trust anyone," I whisper.
Toby joins me, then, carrying a second pair of cuffs.
"About time," I snap, moving as he rolls her onto her back and cuffs her.
"I liked seeing you get pushed around," Toby admits, shrugging.
"I could give you a strike for that," I say, dusting myself off.
"But you won't."
Toby shoves Jaelyn towards me, and I hold her in front of my by the arm. She's still fuming, red faced and shaking.
"Don't touch him!" she screams as Toby picks up Isaac.
"You want me to leave him out here to thirst to death in the sun?" Toby asks, pausing.
Jaelyn crinkles her nose, snarling at Toby.
"Don't hurt him," she finally says, in a quieter but still angry voice.
"Too late, princess," Toby says, tossing Isaac over his shoulder.
Toby leads the way back to the gate, where two guards with black sheets wait for us.
"What are these for?" I ask, taking one. Jay jerks madly away from me, but I clamp down on her arm until she yelps.
"To put over them. You don't want every citizen of Compound 5 seeing who you've brought back."
That makes sense.
I toss the sheet over Jay, and she falls motionless and silent. The other guards help Toby cover up Isaac. Then, we move forward again, towards the HQ building.
We only uncover them when we are in the basement.
As I pull the cover off Jaelyn, she laughs.
"You're kidding me, right?" she says as I lead her towards the cell, "I've escaped these before. I'll do it again, kid."
"Not while you're cuffed," I mumble.
"Yes, I will. I'll find a way out, and then I'll find you and punch you right in your tiny little-"
She looks away from me, shock written in the way her jaw drops.
Dr. Price is pressed against his cell bars, eyebrows turned down as he watches his daughter.
"Dad?" she asks, shaking her head. She looks at me and adds, "You didn't argue when I said you killed him."
I just shrug, pushing her into the cell beside him. She stumbles forward as I slam the door shut, listening for the click of the lock. Toby has already situated Isaac across the hall from them, shutting the door much quieter than I did.
Jaelyn pushed her face up against the bars, squeezing her face through. It makes her look like a frog with bugged out eyes.
"You'll pay for this, Quinn," she growls, voice shaking.
I roll my eyes and follow Toby to the elevator. If only she understood why I'm doing this. Here, she's safe. For now, at least.
She is still yelling at me when the elevator doors close. Toby pushes the button for the tenth floor, smirking at me.
"What?" I snap, glaring at him. He throws his hands in the air.
"Nothing," he says, still smiling, "I just didn't think you had it in you. Respect, man."
I laugh, shaking my head.
"Thanks," I say, "I think."
He claps me on the back, leaving his arm around my shoulder as we walk out of the elevator.
Kovach's waiting at her office door with Rivers, grinning. I've never seen her look so happy before. Her smile pulls her cheeks up so high that it crinkles the skin at the corner of her eyes up.
"You actually did it," she says, grabbing me by the shoulder.
"Does no one have confidence in me?" I mumble, pulling away from her.
"I never doubted you," Kovach says, even though I can tell she's lying.
A moment of silence passes between us.
"What now?" Toby asks, letting go of me. I stand up straighter, glad to be done with that.
"Quinn and I will have to plan our steps for progressing on her troops at this point," Kovach says.
"Wait," I say, "We are still going to attack them?"
"They might not advance right away, not without Jaelyn, but once we kill her, they'll swarm. We can't relent."
"So, the fight is still unavoidable?" I ask, taking a deep breath.
"Essentially," she says.
I take a step back, running a hand through my hair. What was I thinking? Of course Kovach would keep moving forward in her plan. All I've done is brought Jaelyn into the palm of her hand.
The only hope we have of stopping this attack lies in Lexi and her mission.
"May I leave? I'm filthy and need to shower," I say.
"Go clean up and get some rest."
Waving at the three of them, I leave, riding the elevator back down to the ground floor and exiting the building.
It is still daylight outside, well past noon. By now, Lexi is either with Patel or already back. I head towards the wall, towards the smell of sea salt and sand.
I climb the wall, closing my eyes as I drop over the side.
When I rise up, opening my eyes again, I'm greeted by the barrel of a gun aimed between my eyes. The olive skinned hand that holds the gun leads up to a man with short black hair and dark eyes. His thick eyebrows are creased as he glares at me.
Discussion Question: So, Quinn's an absolute tool. He really needs to get his act together. Will he? Sorry for what I've done to Isaac. I know; he's already been dead once. I can't help it. He's Jay's weakness! Forgive me.
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Selected (Book 2 of the Immune Series)Science Fiction
"As far back as I can remember, I've been surrounded by water. The salt in the air even now makes it hard to breath, forcing me to squint. Sand clings to every inch of me, caking my pants and shoes. The wind from the ocean picks my hair up, sending...